Many people hide their cancer diagnosis from their superiors. These companies aim to change that


After undergoing surgery to remove a small cancerous tumor from his neck last year, Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Saadoun decided to tell his employees, customers and shareholders about his condition. He still needed to undergo radiation and chemotherapy, and he explained to them what that might mean for his schedule.

While the decision to go public was difficult for Saadoun because it meant showing vulnerability as a person and as a leader of one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, he said he received thousands of sympathetic responses from both inside and outside publishers after doing so.

He said what shocked him most was the number of people who told him they hid their cancer diagnosis from their employers for fear of losing their jobs or being seen as vulnerable. Instead, they took days off for treatment or scheduled procedures for early mornings so they could work the same day, Saadoun told CNN. He added that some of them even concealed the treatment of their children from cancer from their boss.

“This is crazy,” Saadoun said. “I started 2022 with cancer and left it with a mission.”

This mission is to create a global campaign to encourage employers to eliminate stigma and concern about developing cancer at work.

The initiative — called the #WorkingWithCancer Pledge — launched on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum 2023 in Davos, Switzerland.

Many of the world’s best-known companies have already agreed to pledge. They include Bank of America, Citi, Disney, Google, L’Oréal, Marriott, McDonald’s, Meta, Microsoft, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Toyota, Unilever, and Walmart.

Employers who take this pledge promise to “eliminate the fear of work and insecurity prevalent for cancer patients in the workplace.”

The signatories also pledge to do a better job advertising to their workforce about the benefits they already enjoy for employees with cancer and for workers who care for a family member with cancer. They will also think of ways to do more.

Walmart, for example, notes on the #WorkingWithCancer Pledge that it currently provides access to the highest quality care in the United States through its Centers of Excellence program, and that care is often free. Staff, including travel and accommodation if required for both the employee and the caregiver. company She also said she offers free consultations with a licensed therapist, educational resources and cancer experts, as well as leave-of-absence programs.

In terms of forward-looking commitments, Publicis commits to its employees worldwide to:

  • Securing a job and salary for any employee suffering from cancer for at least one year so that they can focus on their health treatment
  • Provide professional support to any affected employee after they return to work to help them assess whether they would like to do the same job or try something different, depending on their abilities after treatment
  • Provide affected employees with an internal community of trained volunteers who can provide support “so that our employees do not feel alone in difficult times”
  • Provide tailored support for staff working as carers for a family member with cancer so they can have what they need in terms of flexibility and time to “maintain their energy at work and as a carer”.

Leading cancer organizations, including Memorial Sloan Kettering, support Saadoun’s initiative.

His hope is that if the world’s largest companies announce what they’re doing to help employees with cancer and to make it easier to talk about at work, smaller companies might follow suit.

Given how common cancer diagnoses are—and how, thanks to improved treatments and early detection, it can be more of a chronic disease than a death sentence in many cases—”we won’t just have to live with [cancer]”We have to work with her,” Saadoun said.

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